On Wednesday, two dozen gay and lesbian couples filed lawsuits arguing that it is unconstitutional for the start of Illinois to deny them the right to marry. The lawsuits are supported by the New York group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. The couples are from Marion, Chicago and Bloomington. The state law being challenged in the lawsuits is one that defines marriage as occurring between a man and a woman. The lawsuits claim that the constitution of the state permits gays to marry because of due process and equality clauses.
New legislation is pending that would eliminate the language of the law that does not permit gay marriage. A vote for the new legislation is not supposed to occur prior to the legislative session ending this week. Last year, the state legalized same-sex civil unions, but the couples in the lawsuits said they feel like second-class citizens. There are nine couples in the ACLU lawsuit, with the lead plaintiffs being Chicago detective Tanya Lazaro and systems analyst Elizabeth Matos. The couple has been together for 15 years, they have two children, and they do not like the idea of a civil union.
“It’s not the same thing as a marriage. We want our relationship, our love and our commitment we’ve shown for 15 years to be recognized like everybody else’s,” Lazaro said. “When you’re growing up, you don’t dream of civil unions.”
There are a total of 25 couples in the two lawsuits, all of whom attempted to apply for marriage licenses in Cook County, but received denials. David Orr, the Cook County Clerk, was named in the lawsuit. A spokesperson for Orr issued a statement on his behalf, as he is not in the country at the time.
“The time is long past due for the State of Illinois to allow County Clerks to issue marriage licenses to couples who want to make that commitment,” Orr said in the statement. “I hope this lawsuit clears the last hurdle to achieving equal marriage rights for all.”
It has been one year since Illinois passed a law for same-sex civil unions and polls from the state show that support for same-sex marriage by the public has increased. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced his support for gay marriage and Illinois governor Pat Quinn has voiced his support as well.
“We’ve waited long enough,” said John Knight, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Project of the ACLU of Illinois. “It certainly helps that our president from the great state of Illinois has come forward and been a leader in recognizing freedom of same sex couples to marry.”